January Brainstorm


This bulletin is a bit late because I was in the Maldives — what a refreshing pleasure to be away from phones, newspapers, and television for two weeks! Now we are back to work and finalising plans for two workshops this spring.

And now, here’s some information I hope you’ll find useful…

1. Change your shoes
A creativity training company, Odyssey of the Mind, uses a variety of techniques to help people be more creative. One they find particularly useful is called Change Your Shoes. It simply means looking at a situation from a variety of perspectives. For example, a bookshop owner imagined what she would want from a bookshop if she were the busy mother of a pre-schooler, than what she would want if she were an executive, and so on.

Tip: You can use this technique in a variety of contexts. For example, as a writer I can think about what would please not only the reader or viewer, but also what would please my editor or producer, my agent, etc. You can apply it to your personal life, too: put yourself in the position of your spouse or partner or friends: what would they want from you that would strengthen the relationship?

2. Look everywhere
One more idea from Odyssey of the Mind: when you are facing a problem or challenge, look everywhere for the solution. In other words, when you are at a café, or the dental office, or at a bus stop, consider what ideas those locations might offer you, even if your problem is totally unrelated.

For example, let us suppose your problem is getting out of the house on time in the mornings. When you go to a fast-food place, you may notice that they always have a certain amount of food ready. This might start you thinking about what kind of preparations you could make the night before that would cut your morning prep time.

Tip: Write one challenge on an index card and carry it around with you. Every time you come to a new location, do some instant brainstorming on how that location might inspire you to solve the problem (as usual, write down your ideas immediately so you don’t forget them).

3: Expand your horizons
Patch Adams is a clown and a doctor (he likes to combine the two) and one of the most alive people on the planet. One of his secrets is being interested in almost everything, and making curiosity an active part of his life.

He says, “My files have projects in them from all over the world. I take 120 magazines and read them all and write to everybody in them that interests me. I’m interested in life. I’m a proponent of being alive…I regularly correspond with 1600 people.”

Tip: The next time someone catches your interest, whether in person or in an article, communicate with them. Ask them what you want to know, offer them any useful ideas or insights you have—e-mail has made this much easier to do. You’ll find most people are delighted to hear from you, and you’ll both benefit.

4. Try a negativity fast
This idea comes from a talk I heard last night, by hypnotist and NLP expert Paul McKenna. He suggests that we try a negativity fast. The way it works is that whenever you feel tense or hear yourself saying something negative to yourself, stop and ask what is the positive intention behind the fear or stress.

For example, if I suddenly feel a bit of panic because I have a major new presentation next week, it may be because my subconscious mind wants to protect me from the embarrassment of doing a bad job. Next, decide what action you can take. In my example, I may go to my calendar and schedule an extra couple of hours of preparation. Then change the negative thought to a positive thought. In this case, it might be, I have now allocated enough time to prepare, and I’m going to do a fantastic job.

Tip:  Try this process for a week and notice the difference. This isn’t just a positive thinking exercise, because it takes into account the fact that sometimes stress and fear have a useful message for us. We can learn from that, and then move on to a positive mind-set.

5. Improve your concentration
It seems we are passing along the techniques of the creativity masters this time. This one comes from mind-mapping pioneer, Tony Buzan.

If you want to build your power of concentration, focus on the second hand of your watch for one minute, mentally repeating the number one. If another thought intrudes, keep concentrating but now silently say two, and so on, until the minute is up. Over time, you will notice the improvement.

Tip: Like most techniques, this one takes practice. It may help to do this one at the same time each day.

6. A quote to think about
This quote is from C. S. Lewis. If you are not religious, try substituting the word life for the word God

“It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good. On every level of our life - in our religious experience, in our gastronomic, erotic, aesthetic, and social experience - we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as our norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But, these other occasions, I now suspect, are full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new facet of glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one.”

Til next time, Jurgen

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".

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